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Yahoo phishing

Thursday night and checking Facebook on my mobile before going to sleep. One of my friends is complaining about how hard it is to use Yahoo mail abroad. Problem logging in and now there’s some problem with the account. “Your E-mail account has exceeded its limit and needs to be verified, if not verified within 24 hours, we shall suspend your account. Click Here to verify your email account now.” And when you try to resolve it, it doesn’t even work. You just end up on the login page! Damn Yahoo!

Stop! This message is not about a problem with the mail system, it’s a very typical phishing mail. I responded with a warning, and yes, the link had indeed been clicked and the credentials entered on a page that looked like the Yahoo login page. That made my friend a phishing victim like so many other Internet users. It was the beginning of a long night trying to figure out how to change the mail password using a tiny mobile screen. But the case came to a happy end. The password was apparently changed before the attackers had a chance to take benefit from the account, thanks to the swift reaction.

How to spot a phishing attempt?

  • It arrives as a mail message. Mail can be sent by anyone and it is trivial to spoof the sender’s address so that it seems to come from your mail operator or some other company you trust.
  • People think less when they are afraid so it tries to create a sense of danger. Something bad will happen unless you react. The closure of your account is a very common threat when phishing for e-mail accounts.
  • People think less when in a hurry so it tries to create a sense of urgency. You need to act right now. This lowers the risk that the victim checks out the facts first. The 24h deadline is a typical trick to achieve this.
  • It links to a web page that looks like an official page of, for example,  your mail operator. But it is actually controlled by the attacker, who also receives any information you enter. You are hacked if you enter your mail user name and password, or other valuable information.

My friend is not a computer newbie, and did in theory know all this. But the attack succeeded anyway. How is this possible? Imagine that it is late in the night and you are tired. There are other people distracting you. You are traveling and really depending on your mail account. And on top of that, you have had problems and expect even more trouble with this operator. So this is a very typical situation where the fingers can be faster than the brains. This is really the optimal situation for an attacker to hit, and they happened to send this phishing mail at the right wrong time.  Honestly, are you sure this couldn’t happen to you?

Ok, so what should I do to avoid being phished?

  • First of all, do not click links in mails! This is not just about phishing, many get malware too by clicking links. But there are also legitimate links that friends send to you. So you should always think about who the sender is (remember, the apparent sender can be spoofed), in what style and language the message is written, what the claimed content of the link is and how does all this fit together? To summarize, do I expect this kind of message from this person (or company) at this time? This way you should be able to spot the legit links.
  • If in doubt, check what address the link is taking you to before you click. Note that the text forming the visible part of the link may look like a web URL but still be linked to a totally different address. Hover the mouse pointer over the link and examine the address that the mail client or browser shows you. Make sure that the address match the company or site that the link is claimed to point to. For example: The login to Gmail should start with “https://accounts.google.com/” but a phishing site targeting Gmail may use an address like “http://accounts.google.com.etw368hj.nu/”. The latter does NOT belong to Gmail.
  • Get familiar with the login URLs of your favorite services BEFORE you run into a phishing mail. Then it is a lot easier to spot the spoof. The address may look long and nerdy, but you only need to mind the part after the double-slash “//” but before the first single slash. That part identifies the server that you will access. (Your browser may show the address without the initial “http://”, in that case just examine the part before the first slash.)
  • Get familiar with the concept of secured web pages and how to recognize them. Login pages of important services are typically protected this way. Their addresses start with “https://” instead of “http://” and your browser shows a lock or similar symbol next to the address field. You can examine the certificate of the server you are connected to by clicking the lock, and this is reasonable hard proof about who’s running the service. Needless to say, the phishing sites can’t duplicate these cryptographic certificates.
  • If you suspect that there really may be a problem with your mail account, then log in with the link that you normally use to access the account. Do not use a link in a mail message. Look for info banners and pop-up messages shown in the browser after you have logged in. These messages are a lot more reliable and can generally be trusted. Mail operators are well aware of the phishing threat. If you get a mail claiming that there’s a problem, then you can be pretty sure that it isn’t true. The mail operators do not communicate in that way.
  • If you still fall for the scam, attempt to change your password right away. This is also a good time to think about if you have used the same password on other services. Say that john.doe@gmail.com is using the same password as john.doe@hotmail.com. If one get hacked, then the hacker just need to try some of the common mail services to get access to more accounts. This would be a good time to brush up your password practices.

As a practice, examine the link above and try to figure out where it points and what company it belongs to without clicking it.

Safe surfing,
Micke

Phishing @ Wikipedia.

Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public.

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What is a supercookie and why is it more important than you think?

Many techie terms in the headlines lately. Supercookies, supertrackers, HTTP headers and X-UIDH. If you just skim the news you will learn that this is some kind of new threat against our privacy. But what is it really? Let’s dig a bit deeper. We will discover that this is an issue of surprisingly big importance. Cookies are already familiar to most of us. These are small pieces of information that a web server can ask our browser to store. They are very useful for identifying users and managing sessions. They are designed with security and privacy in mind, and users can control how these cookies are used. In short, they are essential, they can be a privacy problem but we have tools to manage that threat. What’s said above is good for us ordinary folks, but not so good for advertisers. Users get more and more privacy-aware and execute their ability to opt out from too excessive tracking. The mobile device revolution has also changed the game. More and more of our Internet access is done through apps instead of the browser. This is like using a separate “browser” for all the services we use, and this makes it a lot harder to get an overall picture of our surfing habits. And that’s exactly what advertisers want, advertising is like a lottery with bad odds unless they know who’s watching the ad. A new generation of supercookies (* were developed to fight this trend. It is a piece of information that is inserted in your web traffic by your broadband provider. Its purpose is to identify the user from whom the traffic comes. And to generate revenue for the broadband provider by selling information about who you really are to the advertisers. These supercookies are typically used on mobile broadband connections where the subscription is personal, meaning that all traffic on it comes from a single person. So why are supercookies bad? They are inserted in the traffic without your consent and you have no way to opt out. They are not visible at all on your device so there is no way to control them by using browser settings or special tools. They are designed to support advertisers and generate revenue for the mobile broadband provider. Your need for privacy has not been a design goal. They are not domain-specific like ordinary cookies. They are broadcasted to any site you communicate with. They were designed to remain secret. They are hidden in an obscure part of the header information that very few web administrators need to touch. There are two ways to pay for Internet services, with money or by letting someone profile you for marketing purposes. This system combines both. You are utilized for marketing profit by someone you pay money to. But what can and should I do as an ordinary user? Despite the name, this kind of supercookies are technically totally different from ordinary cookies. The privacy challenges related with ordinary cookies are still there and need to be managed. Supercookies have not replaced them. Whatever you do to manage ordinary cookies, keep doing it. Supercookies are only used by some mobile broadband providers. Verizon and AT&T have been most in the headlines, but at least AT&T seems to be ramping down as a result of the bad press. Some other operators are affected as well. If you use a device with a mobile broadband connection, you can test if your provider inserts them. Go to this page while connected over the device’s own data connection, not WiFi. Check what comes after “Broadcast UID:”. This field should be empty. If not, then your broadband provider uses supercookies. Changing provider is one way to get rid of them. Another way is to use a VPN-service. This will encapsulate all your traffic in an encrypted connection, which is impossible to tamper with. We happen to have a great offering for you, F-secure Freedome. Needless to say, using Freedome on your mobile device is a good idea even if you are not affected by these supercookies. Check the site for more details. Last but not least. Even if you’re unaffected, as most of you probably are, this is a great reminder of how important net neutrality is. It means that any carrier that deliver your network traffic should do that only, and not manipulate it for their own profit. This kind of tampering is one evil trick, throttling to extort money from other businesses is another. We take neutrality and equal handling for granted on many other common resources in our society. The road network, the postal service, delivery of electricity, etc. Internet is already a backbone in society and will grow even more important in the future. Maintaining neutrality and fair rules in this network is of paramount importance for our future society.   Safe surfing, Micke   PS. The bad press has already made AT&T drop the supercookies, which is great. 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Nov 18, 2014
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5 ways to get ready to ask Mikko anything

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Your digital memories – will they vanish or persist?

If you like sailing and tall ships, I can recommend this podcast about Pam Bitterman’s book Sailing to the far horizon. It’s a great story about the last years of the community-operated ship Sofia, covering both a lot of happy sailing and the ship’s sad end in the early eighties. But this is not about hippies on a ship, it’s about how we record and remember our lives. In the podcast Pam tells us how the book was made possible by her parents saving her letters home. Perhaps they had a hunch that this story will be written down one day. Going on to state that e-mails and phone calls wouldn’t have been saved that way. That’s a very interesting point that should make us think. At least it made me think about what we will remember about our lives in, say, twenty years? We collect more info about what we are doing than ever before. We shoot digital pictures all the time and post status updates on Facebook. We are telling the world where we are, what we are doing and what we feel. Maybe in a way that is shallower than letters home, but we sample our lives at a very granular rate. The real question is however how persistent this data is? If we later realize we have experienced something unique enough to write a book about, have our digital life left enough traces to support us? Pam wrote the book about Sofia some twenty years later. A twenty year old paper is still young, but that’s an eternity in the digital world. Will you still be on the same social media service? Do you still have the same account or have you lost it. Does the service even exist? And what about your e-mails, have you saved them? How are your digital photos archived? You may even have cleaned up yourself to fit everything into a cheaper cloud account. Here’s something to keep in mind about retaining your digital life. Realize the value of your personal records. You may fail to see the value in single Facebook posts, but they may still form a valuable wholeness. If you save it you can choose to use it or not in the future. If you lose it you have no choice. Make sure you don’t lose access to your mail, social media and cloud storage accounts. That would force you to start fresh, which usually means data loss. Always register a secondary mail address in the services. That will help you recover if you forget the password. Use a password manager to avoid losing the password in the first place. Redundancy is your friend. Do not store important data in a single location. The ideal strategy is to store your files both on a local computer and in a cloud account. It provides redundancy and also stores data in several geographically separated locations. This is easy with younited because you can set it to automatically back up selected folders. Mail accounts have limited capacity and you can’t keep stuff forever. Don’t delete your correspondence. Check your mail client instead for a function that archives your mail to local storage. Check your social media service for a way to download a copy of your stuff. In Facebook you can currently find this function under Settings / General. It’s good to do this regularly, and you should at least do it if you plan to close your account and go elsewhere. Migrate your data when switching to a new computer or another cloud service. It might be tricky and take some time, but it is worth it. Do not see it as a great opportunity to start fresh and get rid of "old junk". If you are somewhat serious about digital photography, you should get familiar with DAM. That means Digital Asset Management. This book is a good start. Pam did not have a book in mind when she crossed the Pacific. But she was lucky and her parents helped her retain the memories. You will not be that lucky. Don’t expect your friends on Facebook to archive posts for you, you have to do it yourself. You may not think you’ll ever need the stuff, just like Pam couldn’t see the book coming when onboard Sofia. But you never know what plans the future has for you. When you least expect it, you might find yourself in a developing adventure. Make yourself a favor and don’t lose any digital memories. Safe surfing, Micke  

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